good advice and inspiration:

"Dear Stephen, The best advice I could possibly give you, and forgive me if this seems glib, is to work. Work. Work. Work. Every day. At the same time every day. For as long as you can take it every day, work, work, work. Understand? Talent is for shit. I've taught school for nearly thirty years and never met a student who did not have some talent. It is as common as house dust or kudzu vine in Alabama and is just about as valuable. Nothing is as valuable as the habit of work, and work has to become a habit. This I learned from Flannery O'Connor. Read her. Read her letters especially, and her essays. You will learn more about what it is you want to do from people like her and Ben Shahn and Eudora Welty than you will ever learn from drawing classes. Read. Read. Read. You are in the business of words more than pictures. You must understand words and the craft and art of putting words together to move men's souls and minds and hearts. Listen to music. Listen to Bach's Art of the Fugue and the Goldberg Variations over and over and over. Every day, day after day after day until you begin to sense, if not understand, what he is up to. Then try to implement what you intuit from Bach into your own work. I don't care if you don't like classical music. Do it. It is invaluable, but you have to listen, and then don't listen. Let it fill your mind at one moment and then let it flow over you and into you until you are paying it no attention whatever. Bach will teach you form and structure and rhythm and all sorts of things you never imagined. Second to the value of work is the willingness to fail. Faulkner said that to not fail is to be perfect and that if we ever did anything perfect nothing would remain but to cut the throat. Experiment and fail. Move on. Experiment and fail. Move on. Always keep in motion and finish the job even if it is not exactly what you hoped it would be, is not as good as it could be. It will never be as good as it could be. But each time you must try to make it as good as it could be. Its shortcomings will reveal themselves in time, sometimes to your embarrassment, but that's ok. It's part of the growth process. Failure is the foundation of growth. I've done over 200 books and not one of them is perfect. But.I would rather have the 200 imperfect books that comprise my history and mark the vectors of my path through my art form than to have one perfect book which would comprise nothing but its own perfect self and denote no vectors of a life lived, and an art form struggled with and occasionally, very occasionally, bested. More I cannot advise you except (as corny and prosaic as it may seem) put love first in your life, love of yourself and your work and of other people, and of whatever things of the spirit move and motivate you, and to have fun and maintain a fierce sense of humor. There is nothing so serious or important that it can't be laughed at, or even poked a little fun at. Practice safe sex. Don't do heavy drugs. Don't get drunk and drive a car. Eat your greens. Get plenty of sleep. ...my very best wishes. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. " -Barry Moser



 A few months ago we had a little get together with some members of the writing and illustration group. It was there that DAY'S LEE approached me about whether I would be interested in doing a Q and A about the Razia book. Below you'll find the full interview. Thanks Day's!

Montreal has a terrific writing community and there is no doubt that its members have helped me grow as a writer. I met Suana Verelst, an award winning illustrator, several years ago at a get-together for writers and illustrators of children’s and young adult books.  (She also makes great home-made soup which I tasted at our last Christmas pot luck.) Her latest, Razia’s Ray of Hope, is an award winning book based on the true story of a girl in Afghanistan who desperately wants an education and sets about to convince the men in her family to let her attend the new school for girls.  The book will soon be published in the United Kingdom. [Below you can see the new front- and back cover and a collage of the US and Canadian version of the Razia book]


Written by ELIZABETH SUNEBY  and illustrated by SUANA VERELST

DL: What inspired you to work on this book “Razia’s Ray of Hope” and do you have any connection to Afghanistan?

SV: I was inspired by Razia Jan’s courage and vision to start a school under such adverse conditions and also by the human rights aspect of  the topic. I was attracted to the beauty of the barren landscape and the architecture. I wanted to learn about the customs and the mystery that seem to be hidden behind the walls of the houses. When I started researching the project I knew very little about Afghanistan. All I knew was the violent past of the country.

I did have some idea of the Afghan people’s craftsmanship, their jewellery and their carpets. I learnt about the country by looking at hundreds of images and several videos. My objective for this book was to create a dance alongside the story. I wanted the illustrations to speak for themselves hinting at the country’s past and its present tension.

DL: Why did you choose to illustrate the book using a combination of realistic and non-realistic images?  Is there any special significance to the illustrations, or did you just choose to do them that way because it is your style?

SV: I combined photographic and drawn elements to create a contrast or an emphasis to interpret the text. The photo-collages of the buildings that appear throughout the book allude to little Razia’s dream of an education and the eventual building of the school. The dove symbolizes the yearning for peace. The hinges pointing at the burka-clad women illustrate the tension and violence towards women. The pink blossoms speak of renewal and hope. In contrast to the very real feeling of the photographic elements the pencil drawings are softer in nature, the bright colours and textures speak of traditions, customs and hope. Finally, the paper elements and collages that appear as backgrounds refer to Razia’s secret reading and writing efforts.

DL: When did you realize that you wanted to be an illustrator?

SV: A professor in one of my graphic design courses in college introduced me to the art director of a publishing house for children’s books. Eventually I was offered the position of assistant production manager. I became familiar with the making of a book and what it takes to create a book. During this period I did not create or do anything specifically “creative”. This came only later when the senior editor came back from Italy with a fantastic catalogue of the illustrators that had exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I was very much inspired by the creativity and the possibilities these illustrators had put into their work! It was then that I made the decision to become an illustrator for children’s books. The magic and the beauty I had discovered as a 6-year old had finally caught up with me…  again!

DL: What advice do you have for someone who wants to become an illustrator?

SV: Being an illustrator is a wonderful career but one also has to be aware  of the ups and downs. Acquaint yourself well with what is involved in being an illustrator before you jump.

Routinely analyze your situation and career, and be ready to reinvent yourself periodically. Keep creating new work, keep improving, continuous effort and persistence, have a passion for the work, stick to deadlines and  be open to advise and criticism. Talk to illustrators. Study the  market. Read books about illustration. Be flexible.

To learn about the real Razia Jan and the Zabuli Education Center go to RAZIA’S RAY OF HOPE FOUNDATION


a few days ago I received a package of some long-awaited translated copies... i am very happy to show you one of the beautiful copies of la saison des pluies in korean. below you can see some of the interiors and the cover... :))

il y a quelques jours, je recevais mon paquet de copies traduites long-attendues... je suis très contente de vous montrer l'une des belles copies de la saison des pluies en coréen. ci-dessous vous pouvez voir la couverture et une partie de l' intérieur... :))



despite my apparent quiet on the blog [and the still-dormant winter and -cold],  many things are simmering in the background. some of these simmerings will be posted in the coming time. but for the moment, here's a visit to some older sketchbook pages :

malgré le calme apparent ici sur le blog [et le froid de l'hiver, encore en sommeil], beaucoup de choses mijotent dans le fond. certains de ces choses seront affichés plus tard. voici une visite à certaines pages d'un vieux carnet de croquis :

you have brains in your head. 

you have feet in your shoes. 

you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. 

you're on your own, and you know what you know. 

and you are the guy/girl who'll decide where to go. 

 – dr. seuss 

[revisiting my old sketchbook pages]


WINTER 2015...HIVER 2015

happy new year!

a new year begins. a new year where i like to stop and think before i do, where i like to find wisdom in things, in my surroundings, in books, learn from and listen to actions and reactions and cultivate this within myself. here are some sketchbook pages i did over the holdays. a winter landscape, a winter chicken and chicken wisdom:

In Potts "Chicken", she quotes that people in previous centuries delighted in the devotion of roosters and hens to their families and the ability of chickens to bond with other species. The Renaissance ornithologist, Ulisse Aldrovandi, wrote of a hen he raised “who would not go to sleep at night anywhere except near me and my books.” The eighteenth-century natural historian Gilbert White wrote of the affection he observed between a hen and a horse whose mutual loneliness brought themtogether. The hen would approach the horse “with notes of complacency, rubbing herself gently against his legs, while the horse would look down with satisfaction, and move with the greatest caution and circumspection, lest he should trample onhis diminutive companion.”

bonne année!

une nouvelle année commence. unenouvelleannéeoùj'aimearrêter et réflêchir avantque jefasse, où j'aime trouver la sagesse dans les choses, dans mon entourage, dans les livres, apprendre et écouter des actions et réactions et cela cultiver en moi-même. Voici quelques pages de carnet de croquis que j'ai fait pendant les fêtes. un paysage d'hiver, un poulet de l'hiver et la sagesse de poulet.



3000 "likes" on FB// 3000 FB "aime"!! AND... AS A SPECIAL THANK YOU I will hold a draw ET... D'UN MERCI SPECIAL, je tiendrai un tirage the winner will receive an ABC card game which consists of 52 cards illustrated by me [published in March 2014]

le/la gagnant/e recevra un jeu de cartes ABC qui se compose de 52 cartes illustrées par moi [publié en mars 2014]

To participate, you just have to leave me a comment and share this draw on your wall.THANK YOU and GOOD LUCK!

[the draw will end at 12 midnight, the 8th of December 2014]

Pour participer, il vous suffit de me laisser un commentaire et partager ce tirage sur votre page. MERCI et BONNE CHANCE!

[le tirage sera terminer à minuit, le 8 décembre, 2014]


just got back. as i am typing this blog post, i am already missing the ocean. the surging wash of the surf, the loud crashes of waves on rocks, the sound of the rythmic sea breath, the cries and squawking of seagulls, the sun. A loud quiet that relaxes. for two weeks we spent time on an island off the coast of nova scotia. without electricity or running water. going to bed shortly after sunset and waking up with the first cawing of crows. i felt at one with nature and hope to preserve this inner peace for a while longer by maintaining the daily sketch challenge combined with memories of the sea...

seulement deux jours de retour à montréal et déjà, je manque l'océan. le lavage flambée du surf, les vagues sur les rochers, le souffle rythmique de la mer, les cris et les piaillements de mouettes, le soleil. un calme fort qui détend. pendant deux semaines, nous avons passé les vacances sur une île au large de la côte de la nouvelle-écosse. sans électricité ni eau courante. d'aller au lit juste après le coucher du soleil et se réveiller avec la première croassement des corbeaux. je me sentais en harmonie avec la nature et j'éspère de préserver cette paix intérieure pour un peu plus longtemps, tout en étant de retour à Montréal en maintenant le défi croquis quotidien combinée avec des souvenirs de la mer ...



i am looking back at sketchbooks from previous years and the challenge i set myself to do, seems daunting. 30 minutes, one sketch, one page. with some trepidation, i take out my watercolors, brushes, water, pencils and a new sketchbook, i set my timer... 30 minutes ... as i am concentrating and afraid of the ticking clock, i am suprised at the slow progress of time and the speed of my actions: head, hand, page, head, hand, page ...i don't know where this will lead to, but i intend to make this a daily date with myself ... see you with my progress at the end of august and wishing you a happy summer! xS.  

je suis en train de regarder dans mes carnets des années précédentes et le défi que j'ai fait avec moi-même, semble énorme. 30 Minutes, un croquis, une seule page. avec une certaine appréhension, je sors mes aquarelles, brosses, de l'eau, des crayons et un nouveau croquis, j'ai réglé ma minuterie ... 30 Minutes ... comme je me concentre et ai de peur du temps en plus, je suis surpris par la lenteur des progrès de temps et la vitesse de mes actions: la tête, de la main, page, tête, main, page ... je ne sais pas où cela me mènerai, mais j'ai l'intention d'avoir un rendez-vous quotidien avec moi-même  ...  à la fin du mois d'août avec mon progrès et je vous souhaite un très bel été! xS.